We made excellent time on our way to Yellowstone. The weather was in our favor and fortunately it was smooth sailing (85-95 mph the whole way). I did this drive once in a VW Bus and while that was awesome it is best experienced only during warmer months. Getting out into the wide open countryside is always a nice change from life in the Big City, too.
I visited Yellowstone National Park back in September of 2010 but during the Winter – my first visit – wildlife is much more visible. On a walk around and behind Old Faithful we came upon buffalo near the thermals feeding on the exposed grass. We were so close to them I could hear their breathing. I’m not a dumb City Slicker out looking for Snipes – these buffalo were either facing away from us or laying on the ground – clearly not a threat to us. We weren’t bothering them so they decided not to bother us – fortunately.
The countryside we have driven across – Idaho, Montana, and now Wyoming is only spoiled by the presence of man. There have been some nice towns like Livingston, Montana but also some rather ugly ones like Butte.
The atmosphere in Yellowstone during the Winter is much improved over the Summer mainly because hardly anybody is here. During a month like July there will be over 3,000 people here just as employees to serve the tourists while in the Winter the total number of employees and tourists numbers perhaps 1,000.
When I was here the last time there were so many people around Old Faithful I felt like I was standing in line to watch it erupt so I never did… I left. Today, I saw only 1 or 2 souls sitting on the benches and have seen Old Faithful go off 4 times (none during the daylight hours – more on that later).
Thus far I’ve been in a Snow Cat, cross country skiied, hiked a few miles to watch geysers, seen buffalo, a coyote, and numerous birds. I am not a Granola Cruncher but Nature does have the power to move me (sometimes). I experienced a very emotional moment when, upon awakening at 6am, decided to bundle up as it was close to -11 out (and I don’t use no stinkin’ Celcius neither!) and walk the 1/4 mile to Old Faithful.
There I stood, at 6:15 in the dead and cold quiet with only a full moon illuminating my field of vision and a very light chill wind blowing. I stood on a buried park bench to keep my feet away from the ice and I did not know if the geyser would go off or not… I did not walk there to witness that.
Thinking about how many people over how many thousands (man was here 22,000 years ago) of years had stood there just as I was, Old Faithful did go off but in an unusual way… the water didn’t seem to shoot upward it was more steam but, seconds after it was finished, I could hear all of the ice surrounding the geyser begin to crack as the boiling hot water flowed underneath. Yes, I was cold but I got goose bumps from that.
Perhaps it was my Existentialist moment for the trip but it was truly a beautiful moment.
If you are able, visit Yellowstone in the Winter by all means.
Lastly, I was interviewed by Sergio for his Politics blog. Check that out if you’d like!
Since I am on the road using my Android laptop/tablet I’ll do my best to attach some photos below.